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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Philippines Officials Plead With Rebels on Captives

MANILA -- Officials in the Philippines repeated an appeal Tuesday to the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf not to harm three Red Cross workers it took hostage after a deadline set by the group for beheading one of the captives passed with no sign that the threat had been carried out.

Abu Sayyaf head demanded that the military pull its soldiers out of an island province in the south, warning that it would behead one of the three Red Cross workers if the demand were not met by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Military officials said it was “physically impossible” to remove troops from Sulu island, the group’s base in the southern Philippines, where the Red Cross workers were kidnapped in January.

The deadline passed Tuesday without any report of a beheading. That, however, was small comfort to officials working for the release of the hostages, who knew that Abu Sayyaf was capable of carrying out its threat. They said they had done their best to make sure that the Red Cross workers remained safe, but that they were prepared for the worst.

Concerns about the fate of the hostages heightened last week after the government launched military offensives in Sulu, enlisting civilian volunteers in an attempt to prevent Abu Sayyaf from slipping through. Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross have appealed to the military not to launch attacks that could harm the hostages, and to Abu Sayyaf to release the hostages.


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